Problem: You're checking through your spreadsheet and doing weekly follow-up calls when you realize that one client hasn't returned her event information to you although you sent her an email followed by a text reminder. You pick up your phone to give her a call. After she answers and you explain who you are, she suddenly hangs up.
For the moment, you're surprised. Perhaps she decided to hire a different face painter and felt the easiest thing was to hang up on your phone call rather than explain. From the unreturned emails you deal with sometimes which are the result of dead end quotes, you know this could be the case. Still, this client seemed like she was definitely booking, and if you're wrong, it could cause trouble for her event if she still wants to use you, but you don't hold the date for her.
Solution: You decide to call back, just in case. It would be better to have someone hang up on you a second time than to not know if she wants to complete the reservation process. When you put the call through, you discover the client is merely having trouble with her cell phone, which was why the first call was abruptly terminated. If you had made an assumption, you might have lost both the event and the client by giving the date to someone else.
In a similar situation, I have to admit that I was tempted not to call the client back. Based on past experience, sometimes people make event changes. Also, most people don't like calls that could lead to confrontations, especially if they have verbally committed themselves to a vendor but later changed their mind. If a client decides to go another route with an event, I don't let it bother me, and I just move on. I don't like to pester the client. But without complete closure, there is always the nagging feeling that the client may return and expect you to have kept a date for them. How can you avoid these types of misunderstandings?
The best way is to realize that the responsibility of completing the event reservation is entirely yours as the performer. It's your job to set up a system that, to the best of your ability, makes it clear to the client that he or she must return information, sign contracts, and pay retainers within a time frame or lose the date in question.
Life is busy, and if you do not set a time limit or send reminders, you will find more situations like the one above. Whether you choose 24 hours or several days as the amount of time you feel the reservation process must be completed in, set and enforce the limit. As a courtesy, send at least one reminder to the client if he or she is within 24 hours of losing the date she's verbally requested. At that time, you may politely remind the client that if he or she doesn't take action and return event information, contract, and retainer, you'll have to open the date open for your other customers.
Some performers do not hold a date at all unless they have a signed contract and retainer. If you choose to do this, it's fine, but make it very clear to the client that you are not holding the date based on any verbal inquiry or request on their part.
And finally, if you think your customer has hung up on you, know that we all experience cell phone glitches now and then. Don't let it hurt your feelings, but give her a second call, just in case. Better to get a flat refusal than to let a potential client down over an easily corrected misunderstanding.
Beth MacKinney is the owner of and primary face painter for Face Paint Pizzazz in Elgin, Illinois, and her artwork has appeared in The Colored Palette and SkinMarkz magazines. She services the western and northwestern Chicago suburbs, Chicago’s north side, and the eastern and southeastern suburbs of Rockford. Stop by Clownantics.com to enjoy more of Beth’s face painting tutorials.